I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, purple unicorns are hard to find. What is this elusive purple unicorn, you might ask? In case you’ve missed a blog or two, here’s the gist: Purple unicorns are something so rare and mythical, that they may not actually exist. In my mind, the ideal PR agency is much the same. It’s so magical, that in reality, it doesn’t exist. With that said, we’re pretty fortunate here at Barokas PR, which to me, is the complete package – aka a purple unicorn. Without doing your due diligence as a PR candidate, it can be tough to find your own purple unicorn-PR agency.
I will be the first to tell you that if a candidate comes to the interview with no questions of his or her own prepared, the lack of action speaks much louder than the words not being said—which is, they haven’t done their research. There are several interview questions (and a bonus tip) that you really should be asking if you’re truly in search of your own perfect work environment. While I can’t promise you these questions/tips will land you the job all on their own, they are a guaranteed great place to start.
Question 1: Can you please tell me a story that illuminates the culture here?
One thing to know about PR professionals is that they love to tell stories—both their clients’, and their own. Asking the interviewer to tell a story about the company culture will help you determine what the workplace atmosphere is really like. Generic questions that many interviewees throw out, such as, “What’s the culture like here?” aren’t really going to help you find your purple unicorn, because they come with generic answers. Passionate PR professionals will be happy to tell you a story that puts the culture into a clearer context that helps you determine if it’s truly a good match.
Question 2: What was it about my resume that most interested you?
When a resume comes in the door at any mid-size company, not just a PR agency, it tends to come in with TONS of other resumes for the same position (and even that’s being conservative). If you make it to the phone, or the more intimidating in-person, interview, something on your resume caught their attention, so much so that they want to learn more. Aren’t you curious what that factor is? If the interviewer can’t answer it, you might want to reconsider the odds that they are your true purple unicorn. You’ve done your homework on them, but have they invested the time to do their homework on you?
Bonus Tip: The Art of the “Thank You”
Aside from asking the most important questions, gratitude always leaves a lasting impression. If this is your purple unicorn PR agency, don’t just tell them—show them you have a deep appreciation and desire for the opportunity by bringing up something you liked discussing in the conversation (for example, if you both had a common love for pugs). Standing out with the extra effort of a “thank you” note within 24 hours after the interview, a handwritten letter if you really want to impress, helps show your purple unicorn company that you believe in their magic.
While I may not be the foremost expert on hunting down purple unicorns, I’ve learned a thing or two working on our HR programs at Barokas PR. While I can’t *promise* you’ll land the job of your dreams heeding this advice, it is a great place to start. Believe in the fantasy, and it can become your reality.
For as closely as journalists and PR pros work together, it’s actually rare they’re ever in the same room together. Somewhere between the client meetings, interviews, and deadlines, face-to-face relationship building gets lost in the mix– except for once a year, in the far away land of Pullman, Wash.
I recently had the chance to represent Barokas PR at WSU’s Edward R. Murrow Symposium, an annual event designed for PR and journalism professionals, WSU faculty, and students alike to come together and talk about the future of the communication industry. It’s one big Coug-centric networking extravaganza, and I’ve loved it ever since I was a student myself. This year’s theme was “Cultivating Career Connections,” which lent itself well to the experience ahead.
The day is structured around two different keynotes and a variety of smaller workshops, all designed for students to interact with professionals in different industries. I went in to the day excited to share my own experience, but even more so to hear from favorite returning players including: legendary storyteller and KOMO news anchor Eric Johnson, Nike marketing extraordinaire Marcia Steele Hoover, and PR genius Mark Dyce-Ryan. All three were predictably fantastic speakers – and this year they were also joined by a handful of others that, when combined, offered a breadth of valuable experiential knowledge. Here are the key lessons taken from the event:
What is truly newsworthy?
During one of the keynotes we heard from CNN correspondent and anchor Ana Cabrera, who happens to be a WSU alum. She spoke at length about the duty journalists have to be truthful, but not neutral – hinting at the difficulties they face with the current administration and their constant uphill battle of maintaining credibility in the era of “fake news.” She suggested that it’s the role of all communicators, not just journalists, to determine what is truly newsworthy in the media landscape we live in – a point of view that PR pros should consider next time they send a pitch. How can we come alongside journalists to help produce work that is truly meaningful?
Connect, make connections, and be connected
Anna Centrella-Thayer, the owner of a strategic consulting firm and expert in hiring practices, spoke to what every nervous student in the audience was wondering – How on earth do I go from sitting in class every day to actually landing a job? The answer, according to her, is simply connection. Humans are wired to connect, but we have to be intentional in cultivating relationships until it becomes exciting and easy to do so. For the professionals in the room, she had a similar message: Our connections are not just for us. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or your level of experience, it is our responsibility to continuously be networking and connecting for the good of the industry as a whole.
The power of research
I was blown away by the confidence and competence of the students who approached me in between panels. They were very well prepared, asking questions specific to my career and about Barokas PR – once again proving the power of strategic research. To those of you who did the legwork before we all showed up, thank you. You’re the reason why so many pros take time out of their schedule to come back to Symposium year after year. It’s refreshing to see people so excited, inquisitive, and ready to roll with the punches that a career in communication will inevitably throw.
Oh, and it didn’t hurt that a few of our awesome blog readers helped introduce me to the legendary Jake Sirianni – I may have fan-girled just a little.
The main takeaway here is it’s time to get intentional about networking, regardless if you’re a student or you’re already working your dream job. These kinds of connections shouldn’t be made just once a year at sanctioned events – use the abundance of technology out there to converse with people you admire at all different experience levels and across industries. Sharing ideas and cultivating those connections will make you a better professional, and telling your story has the potential to help others craft theirs. Now that is an all-around winning situation.
Last week, our client, Vertafore, and its user group, NetVU, hosted more than 2,500 customers at their annual customer conference, this year held in Nashville, Tenn. Guests were treated to three days of educational sessions, award galas, volunteer opportunities, and industry networking in Music City.
As part of the event, the Barokas PR team planned and hosted an exclusive press conference for top industry journalists, analysts, and VIP influencers. This included an executive panel and Q&A as well as a speed-dating style interview circuit that resulted in 36 press briefings in one hour.
If you’ve been in PR long enough, you’ll likely experience the pleasure and agony of planning a press conference. With so many details to plan ahead of time, and so many moving parts during the actual event, I kept wondering if I was planning a press conference or my wedding all over again.
If you find yourself at the helm of planning either type of event, here are a few tips to get you started:
Invite the right people
For a wedding, this should go without saying. We’ve all seen Wedding Crashers and/or experienced the hassle – I mean joy! – of a last-minute request from Aunt Sue to invite Cousin Timmy to the wedding.
For the press conference, inviting the right audience is one of the most important decisions you will make. First, you must know the messages you want to convey at the event. From there, perform a coverage audit and invite those based on the stories you want written. Keep in mind industry influencers whose connections are important to your company’s success. An invite to a high-touch event such as a press conference can go a long way to strengthen that relationship.
Take time to eat
It has been said that the number one faux pas the happy couple makes on their wedding day is forgetting to eat during the reception. If you know me, you know I didn’t have that problem.
Also, if you know me, you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that I took a lunch break after the press conference to sample some of Nashville’s famous hot chicken at Hattie B’s. Not only was it extremely delicious, but it gave me a chance to process everything that happened as well as gave me energy for the remaining activities that day.
Send thank you’s
These days, it seems like the only written thank you notes I receive are from weddings! But don’t stop there. If press and analysts took time out of their very busy schedules to attend your event, you must send a thank you note. Not only is it a perfect opportunity to set up follow-up conversations with executives and learn about how you can work together in the future, it is the right thing to do.
Planning a press conference, much like planning a wedding, requires a solid purpose, a lot of organization, and a whole lot of energy. After planning three of one and one of the other (guess which is which!), I can say that the work is definitely worth it.
Whether you have already cut the cord or are still clinging to your TV remote, there is no denying the appeal of a broadcast opportunity. Whether it’s a quick mention in a segment or a 60-Minutes interview, to see your client or their product on the tube is always a major score.
But when the Barokas PR GTR team heard back from TODAY Show personality, Katie Linendoll, we weren’t sure what to expect. The team had been on a mission to secure more media placements in consumer-facing publications, and the TODAY Show was on the list – the wish list…
When product is on the table, reporters are usually more interested in testing it out – who doesn’t want to try out the newest gadgets? Some come through with coverage, others go dark.
In this situation, product wasn’t enough. We had to appeal to Katie on a personal level and pitch the product to fit into her life. If you’ve ever been on Katie’s Twitter, it’s very apparent that she has a love for WWE. After a few emails about WWE’s Mr. Perfect and his theme song (something any WWE-enthusiast would love to listen to in the shower), we got her attention.
She was interested in testing one of the mirrors and would pitch the product to a few outlets, but mentioned that the price point was likely too high for the TODAY Show audience. Even with what seemed like a complete shot in the dark, we sent Katie a mirror to test.
It’s Saturday afternoon. I’m in the park, drinking a Twisted Tea. My phone vibrates and it’s Katie.
“I have yet to test but have interest from Today Show to feature next week in a spring gadgets segment. Can you have several units sent to the Today studio by Tuesday? Let me know and I’ll provide more detail.”
After a quick happy dance, I make the request to the team – can we get these shipped overnight on Monday? If anyone has had shipping luck like I do (still waiting for my records that were apparently shipped in 2016…), I was nervous. Will they make it on time? What if one is harmed during shipment? Could this be my one shot to have a client and Al Roker in the same room????
Long story short, it worked out but with plenty of anxiety as an appetizer. The two Viio mirrors closed out the TODAY Show “Spring Gadgets” segment, while also appearing in the segment tease. The segment was then reposted to the TODAY Show website, Katie tweeted multiple times about the product and posted an image to Instagram where she has over 21k followers.
Boring is clearly not a word in Jake Sirianni’s vocabulary – the Washington State University communication student made news headlines this week in his quest to become Jimmy Fallon’s next summer intern.
Instead of turning in a standard application and cover letter, Jake created a video of himself inspired by Daniel Radcliffe’s 2014 “Alphabet Aerobics” rap spelling out all the reasons why he’d make a great addition to the team. The video went viral on social media, quickly getting the attention of Fallon himself and landing Jake with a one-way ticket to New York City this summer.
This story caught my attention for a few reasons. As a WSU alum myself, I was incredibly proud to see a talented Coug set a big goal and knock it out of the park. As a PR professional, Jake’s efforts seemed like the ultimate case study on how to execute a perfect pitch. Whether you’re trying to place a big story in a coveted news outlet, selling your boss on a cool new program, or bringing in new business to your agency, remember these proven pitching tips:
Know Your Goal In order for your pitch to be successful, you first have to know what you want to get out of it. In Jake’s case, his end game was obvious – but it’s not always so clear. Do you just need an interview? Do you want to land an exclusive story? Perhaps you’re looking for the chance to get in front of a potential client’s CEO? Once you have a definitive idea of what the goal is, you can figure out all of the ingredients you need to go out and get it.
Personalize the Pitch Reporters, coworkers, and clients alike want to feel known, so there’s nothing worse than a generic pitch that could just as easily have ended up in someone else’s inbox. Sure, it’s not exactly practical (or appropriate) to write a personalized rap each time you make an ask, but taking ten minutes to do some research works wonders. Do your due diligence and find out the basics about your target audience – what are they an expert on? How do they interact on social media? Would they appreciate a little humor? This little bit of effort ensures your pitch will take the right tone and that you can make the best of any personal connection that might be there.
Be Creative PR, like television, is a creative industry – which means you won’t get anywhere by doing the same thing over and over. If you’ve already done your research, you should have a good idea of the level of creativity you can get away with. Don’t be afraid to try a new medium – a video, infographic, or social media post might be the thing that sets you apart from the horde of others vying for your audience’s attention. Get stuck? Call Jake – he seems like he’d have some ideas.
Take a Risk I can only imagine how nerve-wracking it was to push “publish” on a project bound for the eyes of high-powered TV execs. The fear of rejection is always powerful, but this situation is proof that risk and reward are directly related – nobody has ever succeeded without having a little skin in the game. Take a deep breath, have a little fun, and know that you’re capable of great things!
Do you have a particularly successful pitching strategy? Share it with us!
It all started in the back of a Lyft when I had first heard about DisruptHR Denver. I know that sounds like a joke, but in all seriousness, my Lyft driver, a well-known professional speaker in the HR industry, told me about DisruptHR Denver after I poured my soul out to her about my love for PR and HR.
I let her know my company gives employees a professional development stipend, where staff can put money towards something they’re passionate about (i.e., learning how to use InDesign, taking a class on Social Media, going to networking events, etc.) to further their growth at the company. Once I heard about DisruptHR Denver, I knew that’s what I wanted to use my professional develop fund for – going to an event series that shakes things up, will make me think differently and leave me inspired.
Attending the event on a Thursday evening, you’re welcomed into a giant event center greeted by smiling faces, a cash bar (oh yeah) and free TACOS (double yeah). Not knowing what to expect, I walked away with several important points I learned from the presenters at DisruptHR Denver and I now can happily refer to my company as a “Purple Unicorn” – something so awesome that it probably doesn’t exist in real life.
So you want to be a rock star?
If I had a buck for every time I heard someone say “I learned everything I need to do my job in my current job and not in college,” I’d be stupid rich. While many companies provide internships to get hands-on experience before formal employment, DisruptHR introduced me to a new program that helps train employees and learn job-specific skills but with the promise of a job after completion. It’s called an apprenticeship. Employers offer apprenticeships to hire people who already know which career path they wish to follow. Granted, you’ve got to be real committed to a career path, which, if you’re anything like me, can be challenging for fickle folks. Apprenticeships, internships, you name it, if you’re a company that wants to hire young talent, you’ve got to have some form of “hands-on” training to prepare employees for the real deal.
Auto enrollment is a major key
Something I’ve learned about my generation recently, especially through my own experience, that unless I’ve got step-by-step directions in front of my face to do something that will benefit me in the future, I’m probably going to be really lazy and give up. Something so simple as setting up an IRA can be oddly daunting and without any encouragement or direction from my employer, I’m probably just going to opt out. DisruptHR introduced me to a new, world-changing idea to help prevent this: auto enrollment. The specific example used was about setting up a 401K or a retirement savings plan for employees to save money for retirement. So essentially I don’t have to do anything and I’m saving money. Hot dog! How cool is that? Fortunately for me, Barokas PR’s retirement program seemed difficult, but is actually extremely easy to enroll in and I do nothing (like, literally I do nothing) to save money for retirement.
Not your average employee comp and benefits program
Other interesting things I learned at DisruptHR Denver revolve around compensation and benefits because these days it’s not only about that pay check and health care – it’s about the office kegerator, unlimited PTO and recognition (queue #youknowyouworkwithmillennialswhen?). Many companies these days provide health and wellness programs that, you guessed it, help decrease the cost of healthcare via preventative measures! Just kidding, you probably didn’t guess that but health and wellness plans can be as simple as partnering with a local gym to get a discount for employees or as intricate as providing FitBits and having a monthly 100,000 steps competition. Something that other companies can learn from Barokas PR, is an added comp and benefits perk which we all cherish: Work from Home Fridays (WFHF) and the ability to bring dogs into our offices. Who doesn’t like working in your PJs on Fridays and getting to see cute lil pups at the office every week? A crazy person, that’s who.
Oh and did I mention that DisruptHR Denver is coming back in August? You can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be there again to learn more about how HR is changing and how we should (and will) approach in the future. Who’s coming with me?
Hate it or love it, all organizations need social media. Social media presence is a huge opportunity for companies and brands, whether they are B2B or B2C. If you’re anything like me, you think social media seems simple in theory, but the execution of a successful social program is not as straightforward as it may seem. In an age where social media is king, it has become a crucial aspect of building a brand’s voice and thought leadership. But how do you utilize a company’s social platforms efficiently? Below I have outlined the 5 common social media mistakes and how to avoid them.
Being Too Promotional
Whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or another platform, don’t JUST promote your company. Social media shouldn’t be used to solely promote company news, coverage and updates. Social is all about engaging the end user — and nothing turns people off more than the feeling that they’re being sold on a product or service all the time. This does not mean that you should never post about your company, it just means that you should also share the love. The content you share should be a combination of original content and news that is relevant in the industry. Promoting content that complements your brand will showcase the company as a thought leader and active participant in the broader community.
A company’s social platforms should remain consistent in overall message and voice. This even includes Twitter handles of company executives. When starting a social program, make sure that the execs who are on social media are using the channels appropriately. When a CEO bashes a company or product on social media, it directly reflects the way people view the company where the CEO works. Inconsistent branding across platforms is also something that can turn away followers. Ensure your branding is recognizable and consistent so people are delivered the same message no matter where they are engaging with your brand.
The frequency of posts should differ platform to platform. For example, the lifespan of a tweet is much smaller than that of a Facebook or LinkedIn post. It’s important to figure out how often you should be posting in each channel. Spread out your posts and plan them accurately. If you’re getting good engagement on Facebook, plan to post 1-2 times a day and spread them out throughout the day to see when your followers are most engaged. LinkedIn posts can be more thoughtful and sporadic in the amount you post. Twitter is a whole different beast. On Twitter, people are consuming their information faster and in smaller bites. Aim to post at least 3-5 times a day and space your tweets throughout the day. It’s never a good thing when you go to a company’s Twitter page and they haven’t posted anything in two weeks and then they post ten tweets in one day.
Spreading Yourself Too Thin
Today, there are more social platforms than we can count. But just because they exist, does not mean that it’s appropriate for you to leverage every single one of them. Don’t feel like you need to be present everywhere. The worst thing a company can do is open accounts on every platform and then neglect them. For most enterprise and B2B companies, it doesn’t make sense for you to be on Snapchat or Pinterest. Choose the platforms where you can get the most quality engagement and where you are willing to invest your time.
Lack of Organization
Organize, organize, organize. It is crucial that you stay organized. Mastering and understanding this is mission critical when it comes to utilizing your social media platforms. When you don’t stay organized, your audience will notice. Continue to stay relevant and cohesive with each and every post. Luckily for us, there are hundreds of tools out there to help us stay on top of our social media game. Tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck allow you to schedule your posts in advance across all platforms, allowing you to plan in advance and spread out your posts without missing a beat.
Next time you’re faced with the daunting task of creating a social media program for a client, take a few minutes and make sure you’ve got all your bases covered so you can avoid making these very common mistakes.
On the very first day of my internship at Barokas PR, I walked through the doors with a basic understanding of what it took to be successful in PR. After a few short days, I could see that my definition of success was going to quickly evolve. I heard multiple teammates say that in order to be successful in PR, you had to be “aggressive.” Although this word usually has a negative connotation, everyone spoke of it in a very positive manner. As someone who, and I’m sure this will not shock most, is not naturally a very aggressive person in its traditional sense, I’ve interpreted the word to mean three things that I believe are key to being successful in PR – dynamic, unafraid and intentional.
Dynamic The world of PR, and the technologies that we represent at Barokas PR, are constantly changing and progressing. To be successful doesn’t necessarily mean that you must be forceful in your pursuits, but rather, actively (and willingly) adapt to whatever changes are thrown your way. For example, one day you could be working on a product launch and a few days later you learn the product launch has slipped by a month. Being comfortable with change is key to finding successes in the ever-evolving world of PR.
Unafraid It’s not fair to say that it’s not possible to ever be afraid because sometimes even the most successful people get scared, too. However, in PR, you must wholeheartedly embrace the opportunity – unafraid of the end result. Whether that’s taking on new projects that may be out of your comfort zone, reaching out to a reporter with a crazy pitch idea, or speaking up on a client call, you must act fearlessly in all that you do.
Intentional This one has proven to me to be the most important aspect of being successful in PR. Everything we do must be done deliberately and with purpose. From the reporters we pitch, to the potential clients we reach out to for new business, and everything in between – we must be aggressively deliberate.
A year and a half later, and now in a permanent role at Barokas PR, my biggest piece of advice to someone starting their career in PR is this: embrace the craziness and constant progress of our industry, and be fearlessly intentional in all that you do.
After spending 3 hours listening to “I am not your guru” motivational speaker Tony Robbins, I now understand why so many people flock to his week-long seminars and why he’s a best-selling author. For me, personally, one of the biggest lessons I learned has to do with the law of familiarity – avoiding complacency. Always try to be in a state of movement towards a new challenge. And, be grateful. Dwelling on past mistakes will put you in a state of suffering (“get in your head, you’re dead”), it paralyzes us from moving forward.
Instead, Tony talked about the science of achievement and art of fulfillment – the importance of happiness, growing, and making progress. Easier said than done, right? Actually, it’s pretty simple stuff.
Set a goal: The power of absolute clarity and commitment
Execute effectively: Massive action is a cure all
Have grace: end suffering (don’t beat yourself up)
And, right when you’re about to achieve your first goal, begin setting your next goal.
By no means does this short 200-word blog adequately describe my experience or do the topic justice. The only way to understand is to see Tony Robbins live yourself. I guarantee you’ll walk away with at least one “aha” moment. If you can’t see him live, the next best thing is his documentary on Netflix ,“I Am Not Your Guru”. Whether you believe what Tony says or not, his spirit and enthusiasm is contagious, and a little bit of that goes a long way!
At Barokas PR, we represent a wide array of emerging, high-growth markets. Recently, I’ve noticed a PR convergence point, across industries we represent, that’s shaping our media relations recommendations: mobile strategy.
Mobile disruption and adoption have been a focal point of tech conversations for the past decade. It might sound like a tired conversation, but smartphone sales surpassed “dumb phone” sales ONLY four years ago.
What I’ve noticed in the media, is that the stories getting the most PR mileage are increasingly focusing on mobile strategy; how this affects the business and consumer bottom line, success stories, innovative mobile tactics, etc.
Here are a few of my favorite mobile strategy success stories:
Because Barokas PR started in Seattle and we love coffee, let’s look at Starbucks. Two years ago the coffee powerhouse rolled out its “pre-order” service on its existing mobile app. Line-jumpers everywhere celebrated as they ordered on their mobile phones and had their food and / or drink waiting for them when they arrived. Starbucks didn’t stop with updates to the mobile app, updates to physical stores embrace more tech-savvy customers by offering wireless charging stations and WiFi-connected coffee machines. Suddenly what was once a simple coffee shop is now stepping further into the realm of tech.
More recently, Chipotle also announced an update to its mobile ordering service called “Smarter Pickup Times.” The technology allows customers to not only place orders on the go, but to schedule and reserve future pickup times. While testing the new feature, Chipotle found that wait times were reduced by as much as 50 percent. Updating their mobile offering allowed Chipotle to not only set the pace for online ordering in the restaurant industry, but they improved the customer experience and encouraged brand loyalty.
Just as the food industry has been adopting mobile to connect with their customers. Mobile is also emerging in newly regulated industries to propel them further. A great example of this collaboration is in the cannabis industry. Despite reports of high revenue, cannabis is still a relatively immature space that has utilized technology to bridge the gap between state and federal guidelines. Barokas PR client, CanPay, an electronic payment solution for the highly-regulated, cash-only cannabis industry, is working to innovate the payment process – only one facet of the existing void. In a field that typically isn’t associated with mobile apps, CanPay saw a need to extend payment options beyond cash and introduced the world’s first debit payment app for cannabis retailers. Not only does this put CanPay in the forefront of the media, but it gives Barokas PR a role to play in building the relationships CanPay has with their users and the public.
In every industry, there’s potential to implement a mobile strategy for increased and continued success. The PR takeaway here is that technology news doesn’t just come from tech companies, every facet of technology is represented through the work we do for our clients, whether they be in the enterprise, food, marijuana and whatever else you can think of-industry.